The 26 year old Kiwi from Christchurch, New Zealand is a Barista by ‘safe’ trade and Photographer and fine artist by dream trade. But this is not so much a dream anymore; hard work and good fortune over the years has allowed her to work as an event photographer- quite successfully so far. “Pharell, (American hip-hop artists and producer) I can put Pharell on my CV. And Bear Grylls, I’m a big fan of Bear Grylls.”
Arriving in 2004 to study at Wellington’s Massey University campus, unexpectedly, it was two men in particular that put her on the path she is on now. First, her tutor who she says was amazing and managed to convince her she had a good eye for ‘stuff’ when she initially wanted to study sculpture and painting and do photography on the side. And secondly the boy she was dating in 2008 who had a few friends hosting gigs around Wellington. “I went along and took some photos and put them on Facebook. It was really low key…But then I started getting emails from promoters inviting me to come photograph their other gigs.”
Her mum had said she was always running around with a throw away camera when she was little, “So I suppose I have always been one of those, constantly taking token photos”. From token photos to a ‘new project’ screen on Photoshop, mixing fantasy and reality is one of her favourite subjects and a tactic, it seems she is becoming very good at.
Though some turn away from altering their photographs in Photoshop Melissa is embracing technological advances in her latest works. “I want people to really engage with my photos and question why I’ve shot what I have…Some people are against it [digital manipulation], and that’s cool. But I am a fan of it and I enjoy it. I look in magazines and am overwhelmed by the talent. It’s just beautiful. ”
Pat Brassington, an Australian artist who also works with digital manipulation was a major influence in Melissa at university. “She basically blurs fantasy and reality together and brings a really surreal aspect to her work. She has a beautiful colour palette…which is where I first considered digital manipulation to that extent. Her work was very quirky and bizarre and she was really testing the viewer in her work…also she was very sexual provocative with underlying messages which you found out about when you read the explanation about the piece.”
Melissa has so far found people are very encouraging of her work. “I’ve had heaps of emails where people ask: What lens were you using? Or even, what setting were you on”? She laughs, “Well I kinda change it up a bit. I don’t just shoot on one setting…” She’s just kidding, but her work doesn’t. It’s moody and serious but also quirky and cheeky. Melissa chuckles and agrees that like the work of her muse, Pat Brassington, qualities like quirky, bizarre and sexually provocative are concepts that resonate with her and translate to her art.